The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Democrats’ support for Obamacare surges

Democrats are rallying back behind the 2010 health-care law and boosting President Obama's ratings for handling the law's rollout, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

But most Republicans and independents remain stubbornly opposed to Obama's signature first-term achievement, making the law a continued liability for Democratic candidates as this year's midterm election campaigns get underway. Independents are less negative about Republican efforts to reform the Affordable Care Act itself.

Overall, 49 percent support and 48 percent oppose the health-care law in the new poll, hardly changed from January (46-49 support-oppose) but clearly better than November, when 40 percent expressed support and 57 percent were opposed.  The growth in support has been concentrated among those who "somewhat" support the law, with strong opponents still outnumbering strong supporters by a 36 to 25 percent margin.

Democratic support has surged to a record-tying 76 percent, jumping 11 percentage points since January to the highest level since March 2010, immediately after the law was passed. Currently at 78 percent , Republican opposition has outpaced Democratic support by double digits in nearly every poll over the past two years, but in the latest survey they are within three percentage points.

Americans express similar support for efforts by Republicans in Congress to replace the Affordable Care Act, with 47 percent supporting and 49 percent opposing the idea. Earlier in March, House Republicans coalesced around a plan focused on high-risk insurance pools, health savings accounts and incentives for small businesses to buy coverage together. Political independents, who tilt negative on the health-care law, are split more evenly about Republican efforts to replace it (47 to 49 percent).

Obama's once-terrible marks for handling the law's rollout have improved as well. Some 44 percent approve of his performance on implementing the law, up six points from March and 11 points from November, in the wake of numerous problems with the federal exchange Web site. But a 54 percent majority continue to disapprove of the president, with about four in 10 disapproving "strongly."

Public polls have found varying support for the health law this year, and differed on how much it has recovered from a drop-off after the troubled launch of federal and state exchanges. Both Associated Press-GfK and CBS News surveys found no recent rise in support, while the Kaiser Family Foundation's monthly tracking poll has found a three-point uptick over the same period. In all those surveys, conducted prior to the Post-ABC survey, opposition continues to significantly outpace support.

The success of the law going forward may be in the hands of two key demographic groups, young people and Hispanic Americans. Each group is slightly more likely to be underinsured or not insured, making their participation all the more crucial to the financial stability of the system.

Both young adults and Hispanics lean toward supporting the current law, while roughly equal numbers oppose Republican efforts to replace it. For example, 57 percent of Hispanics support the current law as do 52 percent of those age 18 to 29. But 52 percent of Hispanics oppose GOP efforts to replace the ACA, as do 51 percent of those under age 30.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted March 26-30 among a random national sample of 1,017 adults reached on conventional and cellular phones. The margin of sampling error for the overall sample is 3.5 percentage points.